As the mad holiday rush begins to wind down, another time-honored tradition takes hold of thousands of people across the US—the predictable, often short-lived New Year's resolution. Almost anyone could guess the nation's most popular goal come January 1: Lose weight, get healthy. The ultimate goal isn't about fitting a specific ideal of beauty, but improving overall health and well-being. To keep 2010 from ending up like years past—burnt out by Valentine's Day with a box of chocolates to yourself—aspiring health superstars can find support in one of many online vegan nutrition programs. Each program aims to establish healthy eating habits, partly by offering participants a variety of resources for reprogramming their nutritional hazards. With a hearty dose of nutrient-packed recipes, daily e-mails, community message boards, exercise tips and beyond, "fit" has gone 21st century.
Whether you're veg-curious, vegetarian, or a junk-food vegan, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) presents an all-inclusive program to help solidify healthy habits. The 21-Day Vegan Kickstart, beginning January 1, includes three weeks of balanced meal plans and recipes, celebrity coaches, doctors' tips, a healthy foods guide, and an extensive FAQ to cover your nutritional bases-and that's just the beginning. "For 21 days, you'll have everything we can offer to not only inspire and educate, but [we'll] be there to hold your hand," says Susan Levin, PCRM dietitian. Focusing on whole, plant-based foods, PCRM's meal plan is perfect for those transitioning to a vegan diet, or looking to clean up a potato-chip-laden one. Recipes are designed to be filling as well as appetizing, such as black-bean burritos or grilled portabellos helping to curb the feared hunger many expect on a diet.
For faster results, PCRM includes fitness tips from top vegan athletes such as Scott Jurek, Brendan Brazier, and John Salley. "Find an activity you enjoy. Even if someone has had amazing results on some exercise program, don't do it because you think it's going to work for you if you don't like it. If you have to force yourself to do an exercise you don't like, you don't benefit from it, Brazier explains. "Stress is involved, and cortisol, the stress hormone, goes out which inhibits your ability to sleep deeply and build muscle, so you're being counterproductive," says Brazier. Instead, he suggests finding an activity you enjoy that also adds balance to your life. For example, if you mostly work in solitude, try joining a team sport or group exercise to complement flying solo. If a bustling office sets the stage for your day job, take up a solo activity such as cycling, running, or swimming to indulge in some much-deserved alone time.
Maybe you're already vegan, but want to fine-tune your eating with a slightly stricter regime. By eliminating major toxins and allergens, including tobacco, alcohol, gluten, refined sugar, as well as all animal products, vegan chef and wellness guru Moira Nordholt takes participants on her own 21-day journey, the Feel-Good Fast cleanse. Nordholt leads an online-coached session every season, supplying members with a bevy of tools to give their systems a break from everyday toxins, and nutritionally hit the "reset" button. Beginning February 1, members will receive everything from shopping lists and detailed menus to video fitness guides and cooking tips. "It's definitely a commitment. You have to be willing to do the work, which means preparing all your own meals from scratch, and fitting it into your busy schedule. But when you do take the plunge, by day five or six you're already seeing and feeling results, so you get in the groove quickly. It's empowering to take charge of your own well-being," says Nordholt. Past participants have reached all levels of success, from significant weight loss to kicking the coffee habit, and even reversing Type 2 diabetes.
If you're looking to focus on incorporating more raw foods into your diet, Gena Hamshaw can help. A certified clinical nutritionist and high-raw-foods vegan, Hamshaw is joining forces with Spark!Wellness for their upcoming January cleanse, translating her expertise to a fast and effective 10-day vegan cleanse. Setting the wheels in motion for long-term change, Hemshaw's "Level 3" plan incorporates 50 percent raw foods while excluding toxins and allergens. Including pre-cleanse tips to help make the shift away from addictions and allergens pain-free, the short and sweet plan provides flexible meal plans, easy recipes, and troubleshooting advice. The program, which starts January 18, is designed as a gentle introduction to plant-based foods, requiring no extra kitchen equipment despite its high-raw content.
No matter which approach taken in the new year, the formula remains true and constant—healthy food, more exercise, and a positive outlook. "The biggest excuse we all use for not taking impeccable care of ourselves is ‘I don't have time.' It's a complete myth. When we make the time for self-care, we are actually freed of that excuse forever," says Nordholt. Whether you join an online program or simply make an effort to have a little more kale in your life, let 2010 be your year for health and happiness.
Check out some of our favorite cleansing recipes!
5-Grain Breakfast Cereal
Healthy Lunch Wraps
Curried Red Lentil Stew
Marinated Kale Salad
Mushroom Miso Soup